The 2020-21 Border-Gavaskar Trophy will go down in the history of Test cricket as the one of the greatest series ever played. People rate the 2005 Ashes series in England as the best one ever but this Test series between Australia and India, given the circumstances under which it was played, will be right up there in the years to come.
This was Test cricket at its peak and the best advertisement the game could get on the field. People who lobby for four-day Tests or who want more limited-overs cricket should watch the rewind of this Border-Gavaskar Trophy and get a lesson as to why this format of the game brings the most joy, which is almost unparalleled to any other sport in the world. Here we relive some of the key moments from this four-match Test series.
REMARKABLE RESILIENCE SHOWN AFTER ADELAIDE COLLAPSE
India were ridiculed and almost written off after what happened in the first Test of the series at Adelaide. In the second innings against the pink ball, the Indian batsmen edged almost everything and got bundled out for their lowest ever Test total – 36. The game was over in three days and people were claiming for a whitewash in this Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Without Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami, nobody expected India to show the fight and determination they exhibited in the next three Tests. They got their selection calls right and Ajinkya Rahane made some bold calls on the field. With whatever team which was fielded at the end, India were always in the game and were staring at a full-strength Australian squad right in their eyes.
INDIA FIND GEM NEWBIES
In a series where there were so many injuries that you had lost count by the end of it, we saw the emergence of a new and young India. Before the fourth Test at Brisbane, it felt like India would struggle to field even eleven fit players on the pitch for the game but the debutants all stepped up and showed the ridiculously good depth in Indian cricket. Shubman Gill and Mohammed Siraj, both made their Test debuts at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on the Boxing Day Test. Siraj finished as India’s leading wicket-taker of the series with 13 scalps to his name and Gill was by far the most impressive opener from either team.
At the Gabba, India got an opportunity to test out two players who didn’t even have credible First-Class experience under their belt in T Natarajan and Washington Sundar. Both were kept back for the Test tour as net bowlers and who would have thought that they’ll get an opportunity to make their Test debut at Brisbane and be pioneers in one of the greatest Test wins of all-time. It is remarkable how life sometimes gives you such surprises and this was an extremely pleasant one for Team India.
FORTRESS GABBA BREACHED
The famous chat between Tim Paine and R Ashwin at the Sydney Cricket Ground set this match at the Gabba beautifully. From the Australian captain’s bullish demeanour you could see that the Aussies fancied themselves to wrap up the Border-Gavaskar Trophy at Brisbane against a depleted Indian team. Rightly so, coming into this Test, Australia hadn’t lost a match at the Gabba since 1988. India in its history had never managed to be on a winning end at the Gabba Test and the chances for this depleted side to do so were almost zero.
If you want to give more emphasis on Australia’s record at the Gabba then how’s this for trivia? The last time Australia lost a Gabba Test, Indian captain Virat Kohli was just 16 days old and Sachin Tendulkar was still one year away from making his Test debut.
India fielded an extremely inexperienced team for the Test given the injuries the team had coming into this game. To give you some context, before the Test match, the Australian bowling attack had 1046 wickets between them while the Indian bowlers had only 13 wickets. Two of which were by Rohit Sharma, who no longer bowls consistently.
This was a mammoth task which was set up in front of this untried Test team and these young boys came out with flying colours. The beauty of the Test was that it was a combined team effort and even though Rishabh Pant won the Man of the Match Award at the end for his match-winning 89*, even if a single contribution was taken away over the course of the five days then Australia would have well and truly won the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
India needed T Natarajan to pick up those crucial wickets of Marnus Labuschagne and Matthew Wade in the first innings. They desperately needed Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur to string together the 123 runs partnership in their first innings to reduce the deficit. In the second innings, it was the class of Mohammed Siraj which stood out as he ended up with his maiden five-wicket haul in Test cricket. The chase was set up beautifully by Shubman Gill at the top of the order with his classy 91 and Cheteshwar Pujara grinding it out in the middle after copping a few hefty blows for his 56 runs off 211 crucial balls. In the end, it was the exuberance and the talent of Rishabh Pant which made sure that fortress Gabba was breached after 32 years.
PAT CUMMINS IS A ROCKSTAR
Spare a thought for Pat Cummins who ran in hard and gave it his all for his team in all four Tests of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. He was the standout player of the series and was rightly awarded the Man of the Series Award even though he ended up on the losing side. He finished the series with 21 wickets in eight innings at an average of 20.05, but more importantly, he was easily the most threatening bowler of the series. Every time Tim Paine needed his team to be bailed out from a situation he turned to Pat Cummins and the number one Test bowler in the world delivered almost on every occasion.
AJINKYA RAHANE REMAINS UNDEFEATED AS INDIA’S CAPTAIN
After it was announced that India will be without their skipper Virat Kohli for the last three Tests of the series, many started to question whether his deputy Ajinkya Rahane was good enough to lead this Test team. First and foremost, it was extremely important for him to get some crucial runs with the bat and lead from the front. He did exactly that in the second Test at the MCG and his century set up a remarkable victory and a comeback for the Indians in the Test series.
He made some brave selection calls and stuck with his gut instinct of playing five bowlers in all the Test matches. He had the added responsibility of overseeing the newer players as this was probably the most inexperienced bowling attack India has fielded in recent years. They kept getting injury setbacks after setbacks so much so that only two Indian players played all four Tests of the series. Ajinkya Rahane brought a sense of calmness on the field and led his nation with great pride and grace. Former Indian captain, Bishan Singh Bedi has compared Ajinkya to the great Tiger Pataudi during his prime and that is the biggest note of appreciation the Mumbaikar could get from anyone.
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